The prevalence of sleep related upper airway obstruction (UAO) was studied in a cohort of 34 children with Down's syndrome from a geographically defined area. Thirty two (94%) of the children, ranging in age between 0.1 and 4.9 years (median 1.4), underwent full clinical assessment for UAO including parental questionnaires and overnight tape recordings of chest wall movements and arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2). Compared with controls, children with Down's syndrome had (a) an increased incidence of stridor and chest wall recession during sleep, (b) an increased frequency of a pattern on inspiration indicating increased upper airway resistance, (c) a reduced baseline oxygen saturation (having excluded recordings on four children with potential for right to left intracardiac shunting), and (d) an increased number of episodes with SaO2 less than or equal to 90% despite continued chest wall movements. At their initial assessment seven children (22%) had evidence of UAO. The 18 youngest children (less than or equal to 1.7 years) underwent repeated recordings and clinical assessment until they had all reached 2 years of age. A further three were found to have developed UAO. Sleep related UAO is a common problem in children with Down's syndrome, occurring in 10 of 32 (31%) of this population based sample.
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